University of Technology Sydney

57219 Issue and Crisis Communication

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Communication: Public Communication
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject introduces students to issues and crisis communication for organisations. Students explore the role of effective communication in relation to issues and crises for organisational sustainability in highly mediatised and networked organisational environments. They examine case studies of best and worst practice to understand how issues can escalate into crises, and the shifting role of strategic communication in this nexus. Students critically analyse the link between issues and crisis management and organisational reputation using appropriate theoretical perspectives. Students learn about complexities in developing and implementing strategies and tactics in relation to issues and during crises.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Identify organisational issues and stakeholders
b. Critique issues and crisis communication practice guided by theory
c. Develop strategy in a time-pressured environment
d. Demonstrate effective collaboration with peers
e. Demonstrate proficiency in academic writing and expression

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject engages with the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs), which are tailored to the Graduate Attributes set for all graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

  • Graduates are able to continually develop the multi-media skills that are required to remain current in professional practice (1.2)
  • Critically and creatively rethink and reflect on public relations, advertising and organisational change models and practices for the 21st century beyond dominant models and approaches and seek innovative approaches (2.2)
  • Locate, gather, organise and synthesise information across diverse platforms to guide their mastery of contemporary communication issues and challenges (2.3)
  • Graduates are able to continually reflect on and interrogate their cultural values, and those of colleagues and organisations (3.2)
  • Graduates are able to exercise strong leadership in the development of communication strategies that address challenges and implement solutions on issues of exclusion, equity, cultural difference and social justice (5.1)
  • Graduates have high-level knowledge and skills to engage with diverse audiences through both written and oral communication strategies, across a range of media formats, with consideration of others' needs and views (6.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

Students participate in a mix of weekly face-to-face seminars and Saturday block sessions that incorporate a mix of teaching and learning strategies such as simulations, role-playing, collaborative scenario-building, small-group discussions, readings and case study digests, presentations and online discussion forums. Online and open education sources linked with the UTS Library, insights from industry guest lecturers, podcasts, videos and publicly available industry reports are additional resources to help facilitate student learning. Formative feedback will be provided in-class prior to week 4.

Content (topics)

The subject covers topics such as issues and crisis communication theory, reputation management during crises, stakeholder mapping for issues and crisis communication, crisis leadership and decision-making, media relations during crises, framing crisis messages, community activism in issues and crisis communication, purpose of issues and crisis communication plans, and impact of social media and the Internet in issues and crisis life cycles.


Assessment task 1: Screencast Organisational Issues Mapping


a, b and e

Weight: 35%

4 minutes

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Relevance of identified issues and stakeholders 30 a, b 2.3
Application of academic and industry research conducted 20 a 2.3
Clarity of visual diagram presented 20 e 1.2
Coherence of structure 15 e 6.1
Clarity of expression 15 e 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Report on Crisis Communication Case Study


b and e

Weight: 35%

1800 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Depth of analysis with integration of literature 35 b 2.3
Application of theoretical concepts to relevant case studies 30 b 3.2
Coherence of structure 15 e 6.1
Professional presentation of report 10 e 6.1
Accuracy of referencing 10 e 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 3: Written Crisis Communication Response Kit Based on Crisis Simulation Exercise


b, c, d and e

Weight: 30%

2000 words per group for crisis communication response kit (or equivalent of 5 to 6 pages in total) + two-hour group simulation

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Professional relevance of content written 30 b 2.2
Contribution to cohesiveness of team 30 d 5.1
Effectiveness of time management 20 c 2.2
Appropriateness of media channels used 10 b 1.2
Clarity of expression 10 e 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements


In this subject assessment tasks are cumulative so that each task builds understanding and/or skills, informed by formative feedback. Consequently, all assessments must be submitted in order for students to receive feedback. Students who do not submit all assessments will not pass the subject.


Attendance at classes is essential in this subject because it is based on a collaborative approach which involves workshopping and interchange of ideas with other students and the tutor. An attendance roll will be taken at each class. Where possible, students should advise the tutor in a timely manner if they are unable to attend. Students must attend a minimum equivalent of 80% of their contact hours. Students who fail to meet this attendance requirement will be refused the marking of their final assessment (see Rule 3.8).

Required texts

Required weekly readings ara available via UTS Library and Canvas as noted in the Subject Reading List (separate document).


Benoit, W.L. 1995b, Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration. Albany, State University of New York Press, New York.

Benoit, W.L. & Pang, A., 2008, 'Crisis Communication and Image Repair', in T.L. Hansen-Horn & B. Neff, Public Relations. From Theory to Practice, Allyn & Bacon, Pearson, Boston, pp. 31-44, 244-259.

Coombs, W.T. 2007, Ongoing Crisis Communication. Planning, Managing, and Responding, 2nd ed, Sage Publications, Los Angeles, p.70.

Graham, M., Avery, E., Park, S. 2015, 'The role of social media in local government crisis communications', Public Relations Review, Vol. 41, pp. 386-394.

Heath, R.L. 1997, Strategic issues management: organizations and public policy challenges, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.

Heath, R.L. & Coombs, W.T. 2006, Today’s public relations: an introduction, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California, p.390.

Jin, Y., Liu, B.F., Austin, L. 2014, 'Examining the role of social media in effective crisis management: The effects of crisis origin, information form, and source on publics’ crisis responses', Communication Research, Vol. 41, No.1, pp. 74-94.

Kreps, G. 2008, 'A Weickian Approach to Public Relations and Crisis Management', in T. L. Hansen-Horn & B. Neff, Public Relations. From Theory to Practice, Allyn & Bacon, Pearson, Boston, pp. 20-44.

Mazzei, A. & Ravazzani, S. 2015, 'Internal crisis communication strategies to protect trust relationships: A Study of Italian Companies', International Journal of Business Communication, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 319-337.

Mitroff, I.I., Pearson, C. M., & Harrigan, L.K. 1996, The essential guide to managing corporate crises, Oxford University Press, New York.

Pearson, C.M., & Clair, J.A. 1998, 'Reframing crisis management', Academy of Management Review, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 59-76.

Ulmer, R.R., Seeger, M.W., Sellnow, T.L. 2007, 'Post-crisis communication and renewal: Expanding the parameters of post-crisis discourse', Public Relations Review, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 130-134.